Zarana Papic on Fri, 04 Jun 1999 02:34:01 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

fragments: BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 42]]

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 20:34:54 +0100
From: "Tony Borden" <>


Even if the troubling details of the Kosovo agreement can be resolved,
Serbia faces new conflict at home.

By Anthony Borden

The acceptance by the Serbian parliament of NATO's terms for an end to
bombing campaign may open the way for a resolution of the Kosovo crisis.
But many details remain to be resolved, and the settlement leaves open
fundamental question of political control in Belgrade, over which
considerable conflict is likely in the coming months.

The precise details of the agreement, including the wording of a
before the UN Security Council, and the speed and reliability of Serbian
compliance with the document remain the key questions. An end to the
bombing campaign is conditioned upon successful movement on these
particularly withdrawal of Yugoslav security forces.

Yet even if these obstacles are overcome, the primary political problem
the Belgrade regime remains. For the 12-point document accepted by the
Serbian parliament is fundamentally the same as the Rambouillet accords,
and in some important details even harsher from their perspective. As
it represents both a substantial capitulation by Belgrade, and a
testimonial to the futility of the past three months of defiance.

Initial reports by the Serbian media have been unemotional and
informational. But having led Yugoslavia into a confrontation with NATO
extensive destruction and loss of life, Milosevic and the regime media
have a difficult time portraying him now as the saviour of Serbia.

"The issue is not whether Kosovo has been lost, but whether we have been
lost--all of us," says an independent analyst in Belgrade. "Ten years of
disasters and then two and a half months of bombing only to return to
Rambouillet accords. All of it was for nothing."

In these circumstances, internal opposition is expected to mushroom.
"Social discontent, especially on a local level, is substantial," says
Serbian human rights activist. "As a result of the war, power has become
decentralised. Citizens, local initiatives and regional media are
the control of Belgrade, and it is possible that they will become
of new opposition."

A critical indicator will be the response of Montenegro, the restive
republic within the federation, which can be expected only to increase
efforts to distance itself from Belgrade.

Another unknown is the Albanian response. Kosovo Albanian leaders have
been privy to the agreement and find it difficult to accept the concept
autonomy within Serbia. Albanian sources have expressed particular
over stipulations allowing Serbian involvement in border control.
the Kosovo Liberation Army is currently regrouping under a new
commander-in-chief, Agip Ceku, and is unlikely to wish to disarm.

Some figures within Serbia, meantime, are immediately positioning
themselves for new roles as interlocutors with the West. Speaking at his
own press conference, Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic,
during the war as a deputy prime minister, was positioning himself for
early comeback. Signalling a new co-operation with Milosevic, he
support for the peace agreement and stressed the need for international
reconstruction aid--clearly offering himself as the Western link with

Yet the extremists are hardly ceding defeat. At a press conference
immediately following the parliamentary vote in favour of the agreement,
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Radical Party Vojislav Seselj
strongly denounced the agreement as a major defeat for Milosevic. He
severely criticised Milosevic for accepting it.

While still holding out hope for "double-key" command of the
forces which would leave substantial control over parts of the province
Russian hands, he warned that, under pressure from Washington, the final
terms of a UN resolution could be even more severe for Serbia.
to leave the government, he insisted that the Radicals would consider
foreign troops in Kosovo "occupiers".

Seselj's long-time role as the regime's in-house radical gives reason
scepticism about real intentions of any such statements. But they also
concern among Serbs that an end to the fighting in Kosovo will only
conflict home--by direct violence if not by other means--to Serbia.
Independent journalists, human rights activists and others in Belgrade
have, throughout the bombing, feared that lists were being drawn up of
those expressing "insufficient loyalty"--with retribution to be meted
in the aftermath.

A key concern is the response of the military. The agreement calls for
withdrawal of all forces from Kosovo, and their willingness to comply
be the first key test of the accord. There may remain considerable
over the scope of any continued, even token, presence of Serbian forces
the province.

Yet if they do return to Serbia proper, this could create substantial
internal tensions. Some troops may express their dismay at returning to
impoverished and embittered country in street protests like those staged
relatives of soldiers in recent weeks.

Others, however, angry at the capitulation in a war which, on the ground
least, they had reason to believe they were winning, may be keen for
revenge against any internal opposition to the ruling structures. The
is set for a nasty, and possibly violent, reckoning within Serbia.

All of these factors are likely to be complicated by the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. With
already under indictment for war crimes, Western countries will face
increasing pressure not to provide any support that will help stabilise
regime. This will impede the provision of much-needed financial and
reconstruction aid.

With Kosovo under effective international protection, war crimes
investigators will immediately begin intensive research into the recent
events within Kosovo, and may even dredge up charges against the
leadership over the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This will further
isolate the existing establishment, and create further pressures for a
change of regime. Assuming that does not occur soon, a vengeful and
embittered Serbia may turn in on itself for its next conflict.

Anthony Borden is executive director of the Institute for War and Peace
Reporting. An IWPR correspondent in Belgrade contributed to this report.


Belgrade's bravado in the wake of NATO's early air strikes has
as the reality of daily bombing has set in.

By an independent journalist in Belgrade

After more than 70 days of escalating bombing, the defiance and bravado
with which Belgrade greeted the NATO air strikes have all but

Instead of singing and dancing on bridges and publicly pledging unending
loyalty to Serbia's supreme leader and heroic military, Belgraders are
forced to adapt to life with intermittent power and water supplies. They
ask: "How much longer must this go on?" "Why do we have to put up with

Despite many casualties and massive destruction, the city simulated
life for the first two months of bombing, refusing to face reality, and
living off its reserves of patriotism and anger.

But apathy is taking hold of the inhabitants of the Yugoslav capital,
especially among those who live in high-rise apartment blocks, the
of young children and those who suffer from chronic illnesses.

Trams and trolley buses are eerily empty, people hurry along the streets
with pained expressions on their faces, and the queues for bread,
oil, sugar and cigarettes grow ever longer.

At the beginning of the third month of NATO's bombing campaign, the
plants Obrenovac A and Drmno, which supply Belgrade with electricity,
targeted and sustained heavy damage. Since then, the city has been
receiving about 6 per cent of its normal power supply.

As a result, much of the city has to do without power. Even bakeries and
health centres--including the fourteenth-floor Institute for Mother and
Child--are often without water and electricity.

"Life is horrible!" says Jovanka Blagojevic, a clerk from block 45 in
Belgrade who lives on the eighth floor, with a sick mother and two

"There is no electricity, water, bread or milk," she says. "How can we
to the shops, come back to the flat, brush our teeth, wash dishes or
prepare food for children?"

"Everything is a problem, especially in the evenings, in candlelight. We
are forced to spend our last reserves of food and money," she says.

Most Belgrade families have in recent years become used to privations
had prepared for the possibility of a lengthy bombing campaign.

Many equipped themselves with petroleum lamps and small gas- or
alcohol-powered camping stoves when NATO first threatened air strikes in
October last year.

Otherwise, all the necessary accoutrements for life without
power--batteries, candles and torches--are on sale in improvised stalls
the streets. The cheapest lighting burns cooking oil.

Belgrade's flea market has been doing a roaring trade in camping stoves,
small radios and (since digital telephones do not work without
traditional telephones.

Newspapers are full of articles offering "survival tips" which
cut out and share with their friends. These include pieces on how to
illnesses without medicines, using herbs, teas and acupuncture, as well
advice how to prepare meals without electricity or gas.

Other articles have examined traditional methods of preserving meat
freezers--by soaking it fat--and how to make bread last longer--by
it in the oven at 100 degrees, when there is electricity.

The results of the first war-time opinion poll, conducted by Belgrade's
Institute for Policy Studies at the beginning of May, indicate that 71
cent of citizens suffer privations caused by shortages of certain goods.

The poll also determined that more than a half of those officially in
employment are not working at present, or have lost their jobs as a
of the war. It also found that 42 per cent of citizens over 18 have had
leave their homes to move to a safer location.

As many as 72 per cent of Serbia's citizens have been directly
inconvenienced by destruction to bridges and roads. And 96 per cent
from psychological problems caused by worry for their own future and the
future of their families.

Belgrade's newest graffiti reflects the changing mood of the city.
NATO, US President Bill Clinton and the West are still perceived as the
principal enemies, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is once the
the butt of much vitriol.

"Slobo, why did you destroy Vukovar?" has just been scrawled on the wall
a building in the centre of Belgrade. It is if Belgraders are slowing
beginning to recognise the enormity of the crime committed in that
once-beautiful Croatian town which was systematically levelled by the
Yugoslav army in 1991.

After Milosevic's Beli Dvor residence was hit by a NATO bomb, more
appeared on walls throughout the Yugoslav capital complaining: "Slobo,
we needed you most you were not at home."

The author is an independent journalist from Belgrade whose identity has
been concealed.


Anti-war protesters in southern Serbia have argued that Serb lives are
important than Serb control over Kosovo.

By a journalist in Belgrade

The wives and mothers of Yugoslav soldiers mobilised to fight in Kosovo
have vented their frustration in street protests are motivated by fears
the safety of loved ones and not politics. But their actions are likely
have political repercussions.

The demonstrations were launched three weeks ago without any
or broader organisation in the southern Serbian towns of Krusevac,
Aleksandrovac and Cacak. But they have put the lie to official
about the willingness of all Serbs to endure all manner of suffering in
order to ensure that Kosovo remains an integral part of Serbia.

The reasons that have motivated ordinary people to defy authority vary.
the message from the various demonstrations has been identical--namely
the war should be ended as soon as possible and the priority must be
lives, not the political future of Kosovo. As one placard said "The dead
don't need Kosovo."

Faced with this spontaneous outpouring of anger at the war and mounting
casualties, Belgrade has been put on notice that it cannot rely
indefinitely on appeals to patriotism and the defence of Kosovo to
authority at home.

Without presenting a single political demand, the protesters have
effectively challenged the entire ideological construction on which the
Milosevic regime is based simply by asserting that they care more about
lives of their nearest and dearest than they do about Kosovo.

The conundrum is this: these Serbs are suggesting that they are more

concerned about the preservation of Serb lives than maintaining Serb
over Kosovo. But if this is so, then the Milosevic regime, which from
one has made the defence of Serb interests in Kosovo the cornerstone of
platform, loses its political raison d'etre.

Since coming to power in Serbia in 1987 Milosevic has managed the
in Kosovo by invariably resorting to force rather than pursuing

As long as the enemy was only a poX-Mozilla-Status: 0009ration Army
and Serbs living in Serbia proper were spared any fall-out from the
conflict, this approach yielded results. But by choosing to take on the
most powerful military alliance in the history of the world, Milosevic
have miscalculated.

No matter how harmless the protesting mothers and wives appear at first
sight, their stance is more damaging to Milosevic's longer-term
of survival than any overtly political challenge to his rule.

By charging into a conflict with NATO, Milosevic has brought home the
reality of war to Serbs in Serbia proper and placed the very survival of
both his country and its citizens in danger.

As the casualty toll--a figure which is never mentioned in official
media--mounts, more reservists abandon their positions in Kosovo
to die for a conflict which is not of their making.

That said, the protesters and deserters do not wish to see Serbia
Kosovo, nor do they wish to topple Milosevic. They just want Belgrade to
seek a political solution and agree to a settlement as soon as possible,
matter how humiliating the terms.

The problem for Milosevic is that the only deal on the table--NATO's
points, or their reformulation in the G-8 plan--effectively amounts to
capitulation. If, therefore, he does sign on to such an agreement, his
for manoeuvre will be severely limited.

Many in the opposition fear that Milosevic will use the breathing space
offered by a peace agreement to revamp authoritarian rule with a
against the internal enemy, whom he will attempt to hold responsible for
the country's woes.

Since the only political party to condemn the anti-war demonstrations
outright is the Serbian Radical Party, many fear that its leader,
Seselj, may play a decisive role in the immediate post-war period.

By tirelessly uncovering "traitors" and proposing ever more original
to eliminate them, Seselj and his Radicals may be fighting a rear-guard
action on behalf of extreme Serb nationalism. But it is a losing battle.
Ordinary people cannot stomach much more.

The author is an independent journalist from Belgrade whose identity has
been concealed.


-- ### --